Taylorsville taking friendly approach to regulating electronic billboards

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14 2012 7:58 p.m. MDT

An electronic billboard on 600 South in Salt Lake City in Nov. 2011. Now that legislation to regulate conversion of electronic billboards has failed, Salt Lake City is gearing up for another fight with the outdoor advertising industry.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

TAYLORSVILLE — Cities along the Wasatch Front have been pulling the plug on digital billboards while public officials figure out if, where and how the electronic signs should be allowed.

Taylorsville is taking a different approach.

On Wednesday, the City Council is expected to authorize city officials to begin working on revisions to city code to address the conversion of existing billboards to digital signs.

Rather than issuing a moratorium on digital upgrades, the City Council will be voting on a notice of pending ordinance change. That means the city would continue to accept applications for digital upgrades on billboards while advising applicants they would have to adhere to the coming changes.

"We're not going to be banning electronic billboards by any means," city spokeswoman Aimee Newton said, "but there may be other rules and regulations that need to be followed."

It's a more friendly attitude toward the outdoor advertising industry than other cities have taken.

Salt Lake City put all digital billboard conversions on hold in April 2011 to give city officials time to figure out what to do with them.

Six billboards in Utah's capital city were converted to digital before the City Council took action, leading Mayor Ralph Becker to initially call for an outright ban on such conversions.

A new ordinance is still in the works and would apply to both digital billboards and electronic signs attached to businesses. Moving text, pictures or animation are not allowed on electronic signs in the city, though not all businesses are complying with that rule, Wilf Sommerkorn, Salt Lake City's planning director, told the City Council on Tuesday.

Murray has had an ordinance in place since 2008 that prohibits "electronic message centers" — digital billboards — from locating anywhere other than as part of a local business.

Reagan Outdoor Advertising, Utah's largest billboard company, is suing Murray over the city's refusal to accept an application for a digital upgrade to a billboard on the east side of I-15 near 5900 South.

Earlier this year, Provo and Layton enacted moratoriums on digital billboard conversions. Cottonwood Heights also adopted a temporary zoning ordinance to prevent the signs from going up.

Taylorsville is different from the majority of those cities because it doesn't have any digital billboards in its city boundaries, and none of the billboards in the city are located in residential areas.

"We realize that (electronic billboards) are the wave of the future," Newton said. "We anticipate that we could see some in the future, and we're trying to be prepared."

The Taylorsville Planning Commission is expected to discuss the ordinance at its Aug. 21 meeting.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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